Protection of Private Information Bill - what does this mean for landlords?

In the near future the South African president will be signing the POPI (Protection of Private Information) Bill and this, says Bill Rawson, Chairman of the Rawson Property Group, could present South African landlords and managing agents with a real challenge because the bill not only forbids the dissemination of any personal information to another organization or individual but it also regulates the way in which the individual’s data is stored. It insists, in particular, that a high standard of security must be applied on all storage systems and makes it very clear that copying or extracting items in the information from the documents stored by or for the benefit of any third party is prohibited.

“Only the landlord and his agent are allowed to see the information and this has to be strictly related to the lease and the tenant’s ability to meet his obligations.”

“Furthermore, the tenant has, in all cases, to agree to the landlord or agent having or getting this information and can insist that he be given a copy of any information in his file.”

“This applies, if I read the act correctly, to the information which will be gathered from credit bureaux, former employers and former landlords. From the outset the tenant does, of course, have the right to object to this data being collected, but if he does so he is unlikely to be accepted as a tenant.”

Rawson warned that in terms of the new law, virtually every item of information stored is considered personal. Any comments by previous associates, employers or landlords are definitely not for the public’s perusal.

“Any shrewd marketer looking, say, for a section of the public earning a certain income per month or taking part in certain dining, recreational or shopping practices, could often see at once if a new sectional title development was likely to have people in it that fitted his marketing target band based on the price and location of the units. Once the bill has been passed these marketers will no longer be able to obtain information on the residents of these developments legally, as was done in the past. In most cases very little harm was done by passing the individual’s information on to others. Nevertheless, that is now definitely prohibited.”

“In general, therefore, landlords and agents will have to be very careful about what they do with private information going forward.”

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